Ally Crays is part of the Student Success Series for Aunt Flow, where we shine the spotlight on student activists who are leading the menstrual movement by making menstrual products more accessible at their schools. Here's the scoop!
Baldwin Wallace University
Allyson (Ally) Crays
Student Groups Involved in Launching the Menstrual Product Program:
Why is making period products accessible important to you?
Having accessibility to period products is important to me because menstruation isn’t something people who menstruate choose. It is a natural biological happening that people who menstruate should not be punished for. There is such a social stigma around menstruation, that the very least we can do to help menstruators is supply products in restrooms. There is a whole host of economic barriers around menstruation and providing those products in restrooms can alleviate that. Accessibility can also increase productivity and confidence for people who menstruate. I could go on forever but in summary, access to menstrual products is important to me because everyone deserves basic health rights, and I classify access to menstrual products as one of those rights.
What inspired you to advocate for menstrual products at your school?
My inspiration for this project came from the notion of wanting to improve access to education and gender equity at my University. During my term as Student Body President, one of my broad initiatives was to increase access to education for disenfranchised or underrepresented populations on campus. I already had begun to grow more passionate about this during my personal menstrual justice journey and decided to bring it to campus. I saw it as an issue that wasn’t being talked about on campus. There was no discussion of how lack of access to products for all people who menstruate affects access to education and their self-esteem. I wanted to raise awareness of this issue to elevate the voices of people who menstruate and work to alleviate any barriers that existed on campus.
What was the process of launching Aunt Flow on your campus - from start to rollout or product?
The process was a pretty straightforward one for me personally. Being that I was in the role of Student Body President I had pretty decent leeway to implement the pilot program. I proposed the idea to the President of the University and the VP of Student Affairs and they approved it for me to move forward with asking Student Senate for funding. Student Senate approved funding for a pilot program to see if this was something feasible on campus and something students wanted. 10 dispensers and all of the products were purchased through Student Senate. We collected data on how much product was being used, and also collected qualitative data on why students used the products, if they supported expanding funding, and if they had suggestions to improve the project. We then went back to the administration and presented the data we had collected and made the case for a campus wide program expansion. We asked them to absorb the costs of the products to ensure the project was sustainable and did not rely on approval from Student Senate each semester. When they agreed to do that, we then we back to Student Senate to gain funding for 12 more dispensers to have one in every academic building. That was approved at the end of November and now they are all installed and stocked with products!
How long did it take?
Overall it took about a year with serious planning and dedication. We started planning February 2019, and got approval for a pilot program in April 2019. After the pilot program ended in November, we then got approval to have at least one dispenser in every academic building on campus. In addition to purchasing additional dispensers with funding from Student Government, the BW administration agreed to absorb the costs of the products.
What was the hardest part of launching the program at your school?
The hardest part of launching this program was getting the administration and different departments on board. It was tough to convince them that this was something that deserved administration funding when there are requests for funding coming from all over. We had to make sure we had data from other institutions who implemented this project, data from our campus, along with cost projects and other sets of information in order to make a solid case.
Have you received feedback on the Aunt Flow program?
Yes! So on all of our dispensers we have QR code sticker that links to a google survey that anyone can fill out. Over 98% of our feedback has been positive. Most students are questioning “why hasn’t this been in place already” and giving praise for implementing it on campus within a year span. Students have specifically loved the environmentally friendly composition of Aunt Flow products and their absence of unnecessary chemicals as well. They have also praised us placing some dispensers in gender neutral restrooms, and suggested placing them in men’s restrooms as well, which is on our list of things to do.
What advice would you give to others who are working to advocate for Aunt Flow on their campus?
The advice I would give to others is to not give up! there are going to be roadblocks and unforeseen events that pop up, but don’t let that discourage you. Just take it step by step and eventually it will all work out. As long as you lead with passion and determination, you can’t go wrong.
By Ana Carolina Wong